David Acosta. Photo courtesy City of Vineland.


By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

VINELAND — Vineland City Council Vice President David Acosta has lived between New Jersey, Ohio and Massachusetts for the past 32 years, but something always brought him back home.

Acosta, whose grandfather moved to Vineland from Puerto Rico in 1947 and started one of the first Spanish Pentecostal churches in the city, said he is proud of his roots and how Latinos have grown with Vineland.

“To say that Latinos continue to have a growing role in the community is an understatement,” Acosta told Front Runner La Prensa. “I saw while on the school board that over 40% of the students in the districts were Hispanics. I knew that as the Latinos came of age, Latinos were going to be the movers and shakers of the community.  

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“Every day I see the progress of Hispanics holding high positions in the community. Wherever you turn you will see a Hispanic in high positions. We still have a long way to go, but I have seen progress from the time I was a school board member to now that I am a member of council,” Acosta said.

Acosta graduated from Vineland High School and Stockton University with a degree in political science. He earned a certified public manager designation with the New Jersey Department of Personnel and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Making His Own Way

He became a nutrition specialist with the Rural Opportunities Inc. after college and in nine years was named its state director, managing its $5 million budget administered employment and training services for migrant farmworkers in southern New Jersey.

While he couldn’t get involved in politics, Acosta said he was allowed to be elected to the school board.

“I became very involved in the board as the district was going through some very challenging times,” Acosta said. “I was part of the board that selected and hired a new superintendent, a person of color.”

A New Career

Acosta left ROI to work as an applications analyst for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. He worked there for 26 years until he transferred to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement as a program supervisor.

After retiring, he accepted a job with the Ohio Casino Control Commission and then accepted another gaming job with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

“A close friend suggested I apply to the [New Jersey] commission and I said, ‘why not?'” Acosta explained. “To my surprise, I was hired. A true blessing. I was the only Hispanic to be working for the agency and yet they had an affirmative action division and required the casinos to hire minorities and women, yet their staff was not reflective of what was required of the casinos. I strongly believe that this played a big role in getting the position.”

Acosta said when he returned to Vineland in 2015 from Boston, he was approached about running for city council.

Winning Support

“After consideration of the commitment that is required to hold office, I decided to run for office, especially since my family name was known in the community,” Acosta said. “To my surprise, I was elected and I was told that I got the highest vote totals for council. After four years I ran again and I came in second with over 18,000 votes, the highest in Vineland history for the position of council.” 

David Acosta (2L) and the rest of the Vineland City Council are recognized by the American Heart Association in 2020. Photo courtesy of City of Vineland.

Acosta has been active in various Puerto Rican community organizations, has served as a basketball and soccer official and is recognized by Stockton University as the founder of student organization Los Latinos Unidos.

Acosta, who lost a brother from a car accident, said he remains close to his family roots that date back nearly 80 years. His grandfather started his church with Antonio Cresenzo, an Italian painter who spoke Spanish in 1951.

“One of my uncles who came with my grandfather opened the first Bodega in 1952 in the boulevard between Montrose and Almond,” Acosta said.

The councilman said while he takes his position as a role model seriously, it is his children and grandchildren who inspires him on a regular basis.

“As a member of council, I am often approached and asked for advice or [about] my position,” Acosta said. “To me this is a form of being a role model. I teach my grandchildren the importance of activism. I take my grandchildren to council meetings so that at an early age they know how the city government works.

“My parent died a number of years ago. They were hard workers and taught me the importance of hard work. However, my kid and grandkid have achieved so much that they inspire me. My daughter is a schoolteacher and holds a master’s degree in computer science. My grandkids are high achievers in school and they surprise me and inspire me every day.”

Acosta has established a life that inspires others as well.

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